American Nations: Review

american_nationsColin Woodward traces the origins of settlement in the United States to demonstrate that American attitudes, values and politics are highly regional and perpetuate over time. This basis for this is the “Founder’s Effect”, a recognized phenomenon whereby the original settlers of an area have an outsize effect on culture across time. Looking at patterns of immigration and internal movement, Woodward shows the existence of 11 different regional cultural blocks. The unsurprising North vs South is certainly visible, as is the Red State vs Blue State divide of more recent times, but the book’s major revelation is that there exist multiple blocks within those broader divisions that are regional in nature, persist over time, contain their own political and cultural visions and agendas, and are capable of shifting allegiances in pursuit of those goals. It didn’t touch on race specifically or on more fine-grained immigrant contributions but in a way that allowed it to more starkly illustrate the differences among the multitude of white people that whiteness encourages us to gloss over. Regionally based, with different dominant churches, different dialects, different cultural values: It is not much of a stretch to say that America consists of 11 different emerging ethnicities that whiteness and other national myths render invisible.


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